There are many things you plan ahead of time before taking a trip and your credit card should be no exception. Most likely you depend on your credit card for many things while traveling and it’s a HUGE hassle if you are suddenly unable to use it. Here are some credit card scenarios you can avoid ahead of time with a little planning:
Credit card phone number
Typically when you need to call your credit card company you either pull an old statement out of the drawer or look on the back of your card. What if you are traveling and your card is stolen? Sound silly but you have no idea how often this happens! Add to your long list of contact names and numbers the number of your credit card company and your card number. Tip: Make sure it’s not a 1800 number that only works in North America.
Call ahead of time
If you travel a lot this probably has never happened to you. However, if you are traveling overseas for the first time in say a year, your credit card company may notice. They keep tabs on your activity and if all of a sudden you are charging hundreds of dollars at a hotel in Bangkok, they will put a hold on your card and try to contact you. If you are in Bangkok, they may not find you and your card will cease to work until you get back to them. It may seem annoying but they are looking out for your best interest – what if you card is in Thailand and you aren’t? Your credit card company encourages you to call ahead of time and tell them when your travel patterns change. If for some reason you forget and your card stops working – read above – credit card phone number!
You don’t take Discover?
Some countries don’t use smaller credit card companies. Find out where you card is accepted before you’re stuck.
Currency conversion fees
Your credit card company will charge currency conversion fees! If you happen to have more than one card, look to see which company offers the best conversion rates for where you are traveling, it could make a big difference in the long run. If you only have one card, take the time to check the rates, it might make more sense to use cash for small purchases.
I spent a weekend in Paris and thought I managed to spend $500 little did I know I spend closer to $2000 because I completely miscalculated the exchange rate. I should have known a steal of a deal in Paris was a pipe dream. Mistaking exchange rates is common, especially for people like me with little to no luck with quick calculations. Even more difficult is finding a decent rate on currency conversations. Here are some quick tips on ensuring you have your nickels in line before you overspend.
True Exchange Rates
I always visit www.xe.com for up to date and accurate exchange rates. You can sign up for their daily email to receive an email everyday on updated rates. This is great for those who travel with a PDA or BlackBerry because you can check your email each day to know what to expect.
XE also has a very handy Travel Expenses Calculator where you can input your travel expenses in the currency you used (such as Euros), the date of purchase and method of payment (such as a credit card). It will tally everything and tell you how much you should expense in your own currency.
There are also several downloads you can add to your cell phone and to your BlackBerry phone for quick exchange calculations on the spot.
It is always easier to have some local cash with you when you arrive in a foreign country regardless of how much the extra fees are to purchase it. Look into the exchange rates at your bank, local tourist information centre and at the airport. See which one offers the best rate. Don’t wait until you arrive at your destination and go to the hotel concierge, they will charge you the highest surcharge of all – plus you may need cash to get to the hotel in the first place.
Credit Card or cash
Using you credit card overseas is by far the most convenient way to purchase. However, the currency conversion rates are unforgiving. Some credit card companies will charge you 2- 3% every time you use your credit card overseas and that’s on top of the additional percentage they have already added onto the exchange rate. If you travel overseas a lot, contact your credit card company and see what the best card is for you – some offer cards with less foreign exchange fees.
All in all, double check your exchange calculations before you purchase and think twice before you use your credit card to buy absolutely everything – it might be worth your while to buy lunch in cash.